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Triple World Premiere at Princeton University


Marguerite d'Aprile-Smith
Director of Communications
Lewis Center for the Arts

(Princeton, NJ)  Princeton’s Department of Music and the Lewis Center for the Arts present An Evening of Enchantment, featuring world premieres of three dance pieces: Claude Debussy’s The Toy Box (1913), John Alden Carpenter’s Krazy Kat: A Jazz Pantomime (1921) and Paul Lansky’s Table’s Clear (1990). The production involves over sixty Princeton students performing choreography by faculty members Rebecca Lazier, Tracy Bersley and Tina Fehlandt set to music conducted by Princeton faculty member Anthony D.J. Branker. The creative team includes Tony award nominee Riccardo Hernandez as set designer, Obie award winner and costume designer Anita Yavich and two-time BESSIE award winner Aaron Copp as lighting designer.  The show opens on Thursday, April 8 at 8 p.m. in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center. Additional performances will be held on April 9-10.

Claude Debussy’s final masterpiece, The Toy Box (1913), is a look back to childhood as a magical, creative age and finds Debussy at play with his favorite musical things—including famous scores by Stravinsky and Mussorgsky. According to Simon Morrison, Project Coordinator of An Evening of Enchantment, “At the heart of The Toy Box lies something of the sentiments Baudelaire expressed in his essay ‘A Philosophy of Toys.’ Baudelaire believed that toys are children’s first exposure to art, to the powers of enchantment. And Debussy takes us back to that realm of wonder.”

The Toy Box was left partially un-orchestrated at the time of the composer’s death in 1918, but Morrison has discovered a previously unknown version of the score that includes an entirely new “jazz overture” originally performed in 1918 by the Moscow Chamber Theater.  Choreographer/Director Rebecca Lazier says, “When I was asked to choreograph this work, which has been produced by various ballet and puppet companies since 1919, I looked at the archival materials (photos, reviews, programs) and felt they did not reveal enough about the choreographic process, the choreographers’ intentions, or clarity about the steps to actually attempt to ‘recreate’ a version of the ballet.”  The aim of this production is to return to Debussy and André Hélle’s inspiration to create a work that could be enjoyed by children. Together with the designers, Lazier creates an imaginary play space in which the student performers can be transformed and engrossed in a sense of discovery.  The students are involved in the creation process by developing original phrase material based on their characters.  Student Sarah Fingerhood ’11 describes the choreographic process and performing the work as exciting and amazing, reflecting that “everything that we see in the world is actually imagined and constructed in our minds as reality.  Children see things in a very different way; their imagination isn’t limited by what they learn. In The Toy Box we can take ideas and just go, it is awesome.”

John Alden Carpenter’s Krazy Kat: A Jazz Pantomime (1921) was the first orchestral work to use “jazz” in its title. This brief and breezy work is based on the popular comic strip by George Herriman, who provided the plot, and features the strip’s most beloved characters: Ignatz Mouse, Offisa Pup and Krazy Kat himself. The source materials, including the unrecorded original version of the score, have been assembled from archives around the country. Director/Choreographer Tracy Bersley has re-imagined Krazy Kat in present day Manhattan with her students from the Program in Theater.

Together The Toy Box and Krazy Kat inspire a brilliant jazz synergy. As Morrison notes, “To hear unknown Debussy is novelty enough, but the project enables us to reassess the career of the American composer John Alden Carpenter, an inexplicably neglected modernist innovator. His Krazy Kat, based on the comic strip of the same name, brings ragtime into playful conflict with traditional symphonic orchestration. Ragtime wins—certainly in our gorgeous staging, which showcases the resources of Princeton’s jazz ensemble, orchestra and sinfonia.” Project dramaturg Michael Cadden adds: “Given the newly discovered ‘jazz overture’ of The Toy Box and the jazz roots of Krazy Kat, we are particularly blessed to have Anthony D.J. Branker taking the musical lead. As the Conductor of the University Jazz Ensembles, he has made Princeton a hot spot for Jazz Studies and Performance.”

An Evening of Enchantment will open with the kitchen fantasy Table’s Clear (1990) by Princeton’s distinguished William Shubel Conant Professor of Music Paul Lansky, choreographed by Tina Fehlandt, Lecturer in Dance at Princeton. Table’s Clear will be performed by three recent Princeton alumni.

Source materials were provided by the Dansmuseet, Stockholm; the Library of Congress, Washington DC; the Newberry Library, Boston; and the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art, Moscow. Funding for the project comes from numerous departments and programs at Princeton University, including the Office of the President; Office of the Dean of the Faculty; Department of Music; Lewis Center for the Arts; Program in African American Studies; Program in American Studies; Department of Comparative Literature; Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures; Program in Russian and Eurasian Studies; and the Tiger Baron Foundation.

Performances of An Evening of Enchantment will be held Thursday and Friday April 8-9 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 10 at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m. at the Berlind Theatre at the McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton, NJ. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $15 for the general public. For tickets call the Berlind Box Office at 609.258.2787.

The Lewis Center for the Arts is part of a major initiative announced by President Shirley M. Tilghman in 2006 to fully embrace the arts as an essential part of the educational experience for all who study and teach at Princeton University. The Lewis Center for the Arts will have a significant impact on the University and the larger community it serves. The public is welcomed to a full range of lectures, exhibitions, concerts and performances at the Center. Many of the Center’s events are free or charge a nominal admission fee.

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